Tutorial: MIDI files

  • Live Versions: 4 - 9
  • Operating System: ALL


This tutorial provides information on common MIDI file format questions.


Standard MIDI files

Following the MIDI standard, MIDI data is saved as a standard MIDI file. There are three different file formats.

  • While being different internally, all MIDI files have the same file extensions (*.mid or*.smf).

  • From the outside, one can't see which format a specific MIDI file is actually using. This information is stored in its header chunk only and can be revealed by opening the file with a hex editor.

  • The format of a MIDI file is initially defined by the device or software the file is created with.

  • SMF0:

    • All MIDI data is stored in one track only, separated exclusively by the MIDI channel.

    • If such a file is imported into Live, all MIDI data will appear in one track.

  • SMF1:

    • The MIDI data is stored in separate tracks/channels.

    • If such a file is imported into Live, the MIDI data will appear in different tracks.

    • Up until Live 9, SMF1 formatted files appear as a folder in Live's browser, which can be opened to import only some of its tracks if necessary.

  • SMF2 (hardly used at all):

    • The MIDI data is stored in separate tracks, which are additionally wrapped in containers, so it's possible to have e.g. several tracks using the same MIDI channels.

  • MIDI file converters might also help to switch formats for an already existing file. Those converters have meanwhile become quite rare and are a makeshift only: an SMF1 with all original information can never be restored from a file once saved as SMF0, since some information is completely dropped for the latter.

General MIDI

General MIDI is an enhancement of the original MIDI standard. It describes minimal sound generator / content conditions. The data itself is stored as standard MIDI files (see above). Live does currently not support automatic sound assignment following the GM standard.

Exporting MIDI from Live

MIDI clips in Live can be exported as standard MIDI files using the “Export MIDI Clip” command from the File menu or directly on the clip's context menu.
Live exports MIDI files in SMF0 format with a resolution of 96 ticks per quarter note only.